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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Runnin’ Utes ready to rumble

By Cody Brunner

The U men’s basketball team will play its season-opener tonight, as the Utes play host to in-state rival Southern Utah University at the Huntsman Center.

Both Utah and SUU come into the game after picking up a pair of impressive exhibition wins over lesser opponents.

The Thunderbirds absolutely obliterated Lakehead University (Ontario, Canada) in their exhibition-opener, 91-30. SUU couldn’t do anything wrong in the contest, despite bringing in the second and third teams in the latter half of the game.

SUU’s second exhibition game was slightly more entertaining as the T-Birds held only a 34-21 lead at half and maintained their composure, ultimately winning, 71-53. SUU guard Steve Barnes buoyed the Thunderbird attack in the second game with 15 points and six assists and will surely be the main focus of U coach Giacoletti and the Runnin’ Utes.

“Barnes is their go-to guy. If he goes, their team goes and he’s a tough little guy,” U head coach Ray Giacoletti said. “(Barnes) really likes to push the ball up the court and he can really shoot the three. He’s a great player.”

While small-in-stature (5-foot-9), Barnes does not come up short making plays, as he has been starting for the Thunderbirds for three consecutive years. Last year, during a 10-20 season, Barnes was one of the few bright spots for SUU coach Bill Evans, picking up All-Mid-Continent honors after averaging 8.4 points and 5.5 assists per game.

Although Barnes is the focal point of the Thunderbird offense, he is certainly not their only weapon.

“(Justin) Allen and (Nureen) Adepoju are both really athletic on the wings,” Giacoletti said. “They’re both big-shot-fake guys so we have to stay down on defense.”

Adepoju, a 6-foot-5 forward from Lagos, Nigeria, averaged 13 points and five rebounds between the two games last week and will likely be a solid contributor this season.

On the other side of the court, Justin Allen is averaging 7.0 points and 3.0 steals between the two exhibition games.

The Thunderbirds’ lack of a low-post threat may hurt them against the Utes, as starting forwards Orlando Greigo and Tate Sorensen are both listed under 6-foot-7.

But SUU’s lack of size is made up for in other areas of the court. Coach Evans brings a match-up zone element that is unlike anything the Utes will face all year.

“Evans does his match-up zone every year, and we rarely see that,” Giacoletti said. “His (system) is a little bit different, though, because he runs a one-one-three and traps the corners. We’ve been focusing a lot on our zone offense and what we need to do to attack it because it’s quite a bit different than what we normally play against.”

Meanwhile, the Runnin’ Utes are coming off a pair of exhibition games themselves, picking up wins over Brock University and Montana Tech to kick off their preseason.

Junior guard Johnnie Bryant led the Ute offense in the two games with an average of 15.5 points per game. Most of Bryant’s scoring came from the three-point line, where he shot 8-for-15. Newcomer Daniel Deane also put up productive numbers for the Utes in his first two collegiate games, averaging 11 points and seven rebounds per game.

Deane and a few other members of the freshman class are expected to be contributors for the Utes this season as they try to rebound from a disappointing 14-15 record a year ago. The opening tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.

Tyler Cobb

Kim Tillie passed the ball inside around D.C. Egge during a preseason game against Montana Tech at the Huntsman Center on Monday.

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